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Tuesday, May 2, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
This van was Kahuku-bound when it veered into oncoming
traffic, slamming into a pickup truck and another van this
morning. The driver was critically injured and taken to
Queen's Hospital. The crash closed both lanes of
Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa for more than
three hours, causing major delays during rush hour.

Crash shuts Kaaawa road, school

A van veered into oncoming
traffic near Kaoio Point

Photo radar coming soon to road

By Jaymes K. Song


A three-vehicle crash in Kaaawa seriously injured a man and closed Kamehameha Highway this morning, paralyzing rush hour traffic and forcing the closure of Kaaawa Elementary School.

A 29-year-old man driving a gold Toyota minivan was Kahuku-bound near Kaoio Point when he veered into the Kaneohe-bound lanes at a bend in the road and slammed head-on into a Dodge Dakota pickup truck, police said. The Toyota spun out and then struck a Kaneohe-bound Ford van.

The driver of the Toyota, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and thrown 30 feet onto the rocky beach with serious head and back injuries, said police traffic investigators. He was airlifted to Queen's Hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

Both lanes of the highway near Kaoio Point were closed following the 4:48 a.m. collision. The roadway was opened at about 8 a.m.

Police say speeding may have contributed to the crash. They are investigating whether the minivan driver was under the influence of alcohol. The drivers of the other vehicles were not seriously injured.

Shari Nahoopii, the driver of the Ford van, was shaken by the crash and said she was "very lucky" she was not seriously injured.

Some Kahuku-bound traffic was diverted to a dirt road owned by Kualoa Ranch. But many motorists waited in their cars or turned around. Kaneohe-bound traffic was backed up for almost a mile.

District superintendent Lea Albert said she decided to close Kaaawa Elementary for the day because the students and teachers couldn't get to school until the road opened.

Albert recalled another accident which closed the roadway for five hours, trapping students at the school. Some students said they didn't mind the closure at all and would spend the day playing. Teachers said they will spend the day catching up on paperwork.

Many at the school expressed concern about Kamehameha Highway, where they have seen cars whiz through the 25-mph school zone at 55 mph.

Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Kahaluu) said funds have been approved to try to make the accident-prone section of Kamehameha Highway from Kualoa Regional Park to Kawela Bay safer.

Meyer would like to see an automated photo-radar device used to catch speeders along the highway, and a traffic light at the Anemoku intersection in Laie and at the Turtle Bay Hilton. The photo device would take a picture of the driver, the vehicle and its license number, and record the speed of the car.

"When people start getting tickets in the mail, they'll slow down! I'm not all for Big Brother, but we're talking about people's lives," Meyer said. "There have been an inordinately high number of accidents on that highway."

Star-Bulletin reporter Pat Gee contributed to this report.

 | | |

Photo radar coming
soon to deadly road

Since April 1988, at least 51 people have died along the 20-mile stretch of Kamehameha Highway between Kuuloa and Kawela Bay.

The large number of accidents prompted the formation of the Koolauloa Traffic Safety Coalition in June 1997.

The group has been working to reduce speeding along the highway, a major factor in many of the crashes, and to make the road safer.

The group has been pushing for a portable photo-radar device to catch speeders for the last three years.

Marilyn Kali, the state Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said the photo-radar device may go out to bid soon and may be in use by the end of the summer.

E-mail to City Desk

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